Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Sri Tunganath Yatra in Garhwal Himalayas


Those who have made the Do Dham Yatra or Char Dham Yatra in Garhwal, the scenic place called Chopta is not is not unfamiliar on the Kedarnath route. The Himalayan panorama from Chopta is awesome to say the least. The signboard on the main road reads ‘The Mini Switzerland,’ is an understatement. The place abounds one of the densest of forest, greenest vast expanse of Bhugyals (green meadows.) This place  still remains one of the under developed regions in Garhwal. There are no worthwhile accommodation facilities; the tele-communication is lacking. But the discerning visitors who are able to take all this into stride will have a whale of a time in this Garhwal Himalayan destination at 9.000’ altitude.
Chopta View
From Chopta, a devout can take a giant step forward in other words, trek a distance of 4 km, in that process climbing 3,500’ and arrive at Tunganath - one of the Panch Kedar

Since 1984, when I first ventured to Do Dham Yatra, I passed by Chopta at least three times, with a break of 30 minutes in one of the occasions. In May 2007, I along with three of my friends, planned to trek from Chopta to Tunganth in course of our 10 days journey through Garhwal region. We pick up the threads in a rainy afternoon when we landed at Chopta and looked out for hotel room for four of us. We got two rooms in Neelkanth hotel, near bus stand after entering the divine arched gate with bells hanging. The room had good clean linen with attached bath. A solar powered lamp was the only other facility it had. From the verandah of the hotel, the vast Himalayan panorama could be seen, within some trees offering a minor obstruction. 

Panorama from Chopta
The next morning was a bright sunlit day, when we came to the road and re-entered the arched gate and one by one and rang the bell to announce our arrival at Lord Shiva’s kingdom. A darshan at a temple near the gate set the tone for our trek through the upward winding stone paved path. As in all the upward treks in high altitudes, the initial half a km is very tough, till the system gets used to the need of increased oxygen to our leg muscles. We took the opportunity to take a few minutes rest and soothing our eyes on the vast expanse of Bhugyal ( green meadows ) to our left side; a few pilgrims were riding ponies to reach Tunganath as fast as possible and return on the same day. We had no such ideas as we had our mind to spend one night at the altitude of 12,500’, the abode of lord Shiva considered to be Hindu temple at the highest elevation in Himalayas.

As we resumed our trek through the steep gradient, a few ponies loaded with goods were going up or coming down; that being the only mode of transport for carrying food and supplies in this Himalayan region. We reached alpine field station with a signboard indicating with arrow towards the landscape full of pine trees and Bugyal and at a distance a few cottages. After nearly four hours of trek, we sighted the Tunganath township with a two storied ugly looking shack reading Ganesh Hotel. Somewhat on higher elevation, the  boundary of Tunganth temple compound and the upper portion of  the temple could be seen.

We checked in at a shack named Chandrashila Hotel with two bedrooms with cubby holes of an attached toilet, with no running water. No doubt, very few pilgrims visit this shrine; those who visit try to return back to Chopta on the same day.  After half an hour, the body heat generated due to trekking dissipating, it was shivering time. We donned all the woolens we had and sat on plastic chairs in the frontal potion of hotel, watching Himalayan panorama. After a while, we climbed up the stone steps to have a darshan at the Tunganath temple. 

Way to Tunganath Temple
The view from Tunganth temple compound, down below, showed a few of the dilapidated shacks which had some stone layers; the ravages of the Himalayan weather had done the needful. The two storied, pink coloured Kali Kamli Dharmashala looked good in this place. The distant landscape with Himalayan panorama and the frontal layer of hills with clouds caressing their crests added the grandeur. To add divinity to this heavenly place, a colorfully robed sadhubaba sitting on the temple compound boundary, was all calm and composure in his meditation.
Meditation in Himalayas
Back to the hotel, we found the  dhaba cook was busy preparing khichdi and potato fry for us. The piping hot food, freshly prepared, tasted heavenly in the chilly weather. 

As we were standing near the shack, a nonagenarian priest walked up the slope and met us. He claimed to trek daily from Chopta to Tunganth to help pilgrims offer puja at the temple. We, after a brief chat with the pujari, decided to have a snooze in the afternoon, the weather being inclement for sightseeing around Tunganth. It must have been about an hour, when the pitter patter on the shack roof brought us awake and outside to witness the sleet fall accompanied by rain. The sleets are ice globules coming down at as high velocity to strike the ground surface, then get molten in no time. We were too overawed to capture the phenomenon in our digicam.
Tunganath by fog and mist
The Himalayan mood seemed to change again, with rainfall abating, the clouds migrating to a different destination. The Himalayan panorama was getting gradually unveiled to offer us awesome view.
Snow View from Tunganath
It was time to visit the neighboring hill where the glacier molten water was flowing down in a cascade, with scattered wild flowers and colorful moss on the rocks. The snow fall in the not so distant hill was apparent, as we spent some time shooting the landscape. In the evening, after a cup of tea and some snacks, we ventured out to do a recce of the trek route to Chandrashila Top, where we proposed to go the next day early morning. Post dinner, we went to sleep hoping for a cloud free day, at the crack of the dawn to get a best possible view of sunrise over Himalayas at Chandrashila Top.


Important Info for trekkers:

1) Chopta to Tunganath is a steep gradient trek; mercifully the distance is only 4 km to climb over a stretch of 3,500’. The entire route is stone paved, so water accumulation on route is not a problem.
2) It is better to start as early in the morning as possible, since one tends to perspire a lot even in the early summer as the sun rises.
3) Tunganth being at 12,500’ elevation, it is biting cold. Jackets and woolens are a must.
4) Ponies are available at Chopta, for those who cannot foot it out.
5) No palkis are available in this route.
6) The accommodation at Tunganth is a) Kali Kamliwali Dharmashala, the pink coloured two storied structure one cannot miss b) Chandrashila hotel, single storied shack c) Ganesh hotel, a two storied shack. The amenities are very elementary in all the places. Power is solar and candle is provided during night.
7) The Tungnth temple does not see many visitors, but view from temple compound is a nature lover’s delight.
8) The time to visit Tunganth is from mid-May till September end.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this information with us , It is useful for all , It is full of natural places . India Tour Operator

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  2. A darshan at a temple near the gate set the tone for our trek through the upward winding stone paved path. As in all the upward treks in high altitudes, the initial half a km is very tough,Darjeeling Tour Packages till the system gets used to the need of increased oxygen to our leg muscles.

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  3. Great..it really needs a lot of determination and strength of mind to go for such rides :-)

    Wonderful pictures and wish you many more happy rides ....
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